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Saga Of New York Prison Break Ends With David Sweat’s Capture

By Matt Pearce and Vera Haller, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

NEW YORK — For most Americans, the great escape from the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York unfolded like a pulpy, if not quite believable, crime novel.

How did Richard Matt and David Sweat get power tools in a maximum-security prison? How could the two convicted murderers cut their way out without officials noticing?

But the bizarre and suspenseful story gave little pleasure for New Yorkers upstate. Many spent their nights awake, with their doors locked and guns loaded, as Matt, 48, and Sweat, 35, roamed free.

The 22-day odyssey ended Sunday when a lone New York State Police sergeant shot and arrested Sweat in a field a mile and a half from the Canadian border, two days after officials killed Matt nearby, officials said.

Sweat was jogging along a road near the aptly named hamlet of Constable around 3:20 p.m. when Sgt. Jay Cook, a 21-year veteran, spotted him while on patrol, officials said.

When Cook tried to stop him, Sweat, who was unarmed, made a break for a tree line, and Cook shot him twice in the torso, officials said.

The hunt was over.

When news of Sweat’s capture reached Hosler’s Family Restaurant in the nearby town of Malone, cheers broke out among the staff and customers.

“We were all just yelling like we were on an adrenaline high,” Lynn Hosler, the owner, said in a telephone interview. “It’s been a tough three weeks for us.”

In Constable, the Rev. Howard Venette of St. Francis of Assisi Church said he mentioned the manhunt at Sunday morning Mass, just hours before Sweat was captured. “Today’s gospel had Jesus saying, ‘Be not afraid. Just have faith,’ ” he said. “I related that to coming to the church every day and wondering if I’m going to be surprised by the escapees.”

Thousands of law enforcement officials took part in the manhunt for Matt and Sweat, who were discovered missing June 6 and who ultimately traveled about 40 miles from the prison in Dannemora. On Sunday night, Sweat was listed in critical condition at Albany Medical Center.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that no one had escaped from the formidable walls of the Clinton Correctional Facility in 100 years.

The duration of the pair’s escape was almost as unusual. Of the 29 inmates who escaped from New York state prisons between 2002 and 2012, none lasted longer than three days before being recaptured. Almost all were caught within 24 hours, and almost none of them had records as deadly as Matt’s and Sweat’s.

Sweat was serving a sentence of life without parole for killing a sheriff’s deputy in Broome County in 2002. Matt was serving 25 years to life for killing and dismembering his former boss.

“The nightmare is finally over,” Cuomo said at a televised news conference in Malone. He added: “Everyone goes home safe. The escapees have been dealt with, we couldn’t have a better ending. We wish it hadn’t happened in the first place.”

Officials are eager to question Sweat to learn exactly how he and Matt escaped, where they went, and where they were going.

“I can only assume he was going for the border,” New York State Police Supt. Joseph D’Amico said of Sweat at the news conference. “He was that close.”

Matt was near Malone when he was killed Friday. Officials said he had a 20-gauge shotgun and refused to drop it. He was shot three times in the head, according to autopsy results released Sunday.

Matt’s body was covered with bug bites, blisters and scratches “consistent with living in the woods for three weeks,” according to a New York State Police announcement.

When Sweat was captured, he was wearing a dark coat, camouflage pants and a shirt smeared with blood, according to a photo obtained by CNN.

Although Sweat was unarmed, D’Amico and Cuomo praised Cook’s decision to open fire as Sweat fled. Cuomo said of Cook: “He was alone and it was a very courageous act. … Go home tonight and tell your daughters you’re a hero.”

D’Amico said Matt and Sweat were believed to have used pepper to throw off their scent, making it difficult for police dogs to track them.

At various points, officials warned that the killers might be headed for Vermont, Pennsylvania, Canada or Mexico.

It seems the pair may have never left upstate New York, where jittery residents were only partially comforted by the hordes of law enforcement blocking roads and scouring forests.

“I feel a lot better now,” said Michael French, manager of the Four Seasons Motel in Malone. “I didn’t want to let my two young boys go outside. I was worried whether or not those guys were around.”

French said he felt exhausted. His motel has been filled with federal agents and journalists, and his parking lot was where buses and vans dropped off and picked up officers participating in the search.

“I would really love to get some sleep,” French said.

Two prison employees have been arrested since Matt and Sweat’s escape. Joyce Mitchell, a prison tailor shop instructor, has been charged with smuggling hacksaw blades and other tools to the inmates in frozen hamburger meat.

Gene Palmer, a guard, has been accused of promoting contraband by delivering the meat to the prisoners and has also been charged with evidence tampering.
Both have pleaded not guilty.

Cuomo vowed that an investigation into the escape and prison practices would continue. He also summed up the events that had transfixed the state for three weeks:

“If you were writing a movie plot, you would say this was overdone.”

(Staff writer Pearce reported from Los Angeles and special correspondent Haller from New York.)

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Manhunt Over After Second Escaped Inmate Shot, Captured

New York (AFP) – A convicted murderer who escaped from a maximum-security New York prison three weeks ago was shot and captured Sunday, authorities said, bringing an end to an intense manhunt that saw his fellow escapee shot dead.

David Sweat was apprehended just two miles south of the Canadian border and taken to the hospital for treatment, New York State Police said.

A photograph circulated in the media showed a bloodied Sweat, wearing camouflage and waterproof gear, in police custody. Reports said police spotted the fugitive as he ran through an open field.

His capture wraps up a huge manhunt that saw hundreds of law enforcement officers working around the clock to scour the rugged, remote area around the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York after Sweat and Richard Matt busted out on June 6. Matt was shot dead by a federal agent on Friday.

“At approximately 3:20 pm on June 28, a member of the New York State Police spotted a suspicious man walking down a roadway in the Town of Constable,” police said Sunday in a statement.

“The State Police member shot and injured Clinton Correctional Facility escapee David Sweat. Sweat was taken into police custody alive, then taken to a local hospital for treatment of his injuries.”

It said his condition was “unknown.”

Sweat, 35, and Matt, 49, had escaped in an audacious act in which they used power tools to cut through cell walls, then crawled through pipes to emerge from a manhole in the village of Dannemora, home to the sprawling prison.

“Sleep peacefully New York,” the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said on Twitter after Sweat’s capture.

Two prison workers have been charged over the brazen breakout.

Corrections officer Gene Palmer, 57, was charged with promoting prison contraband, two counts of tampering with evidence and one count of official misconduct.

Palmer allegedly helped smuggle tools and other banned items hidden in hamburger meat.

Another prison worker, Joyce Mitchell, has been charged with facilitating the escape by providing hacksaw blades and drill bits to the pair, again hidden in hamburger meat.

Matt was killed Friday in the town of Malone, less than 10 miles from the Canadian border, after he apparently fired at a passing camper van.

An autopsy found that he died from three bullet wounds to the head after a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent opened fire with a semi-automatic weapon.

“An examination of the body revealed bug bites on the lower extremities, blisters, and minor abrasions consistent with living in the woods for three weeks,” state police said.

Sweat was serving a life sentence without parole for murdering a sheriff’s deputy in New York state in 2002 when he was 22.

Matt was serving a sentence of 25 years to life for the 1997 kidnapping and dismembering of his former boss in a 27-hour ordeal.

He fled to Mexico after he murdered and killed another American there, before being sentenced to 20 years and extradited back to New York.

Photo: FBI agents conduct a search for convicted murderer David Sweat on June 28, 2015 near Duane, New York (Getty/AFP / Scott Olson)

New York Escaped Convict Shot Dead By Police: Reports

New York (AFP) – One of two convicts who escaped from a maximum-security New York prison was shot dead by police Friday after three weeks on the run, according to media reports.

Richard Matt, 49, was killed by law enforcement and his fellow escapee David Sweat, 35, was still being pursued by police, CNN reported.

The shooting took place in Franklin County in upstate New York, where police had focused search efforts after several reports the men had been spotted in the area.

The inmates used power tools to cut their way out of their cells at the Clinton Correctional Facility before dawn on June 6 in a spectacular prison break, triggering an intense weeks-long manhunt in the state.

Authorities said earlier Friday the pair might have been heading toward Canada, and warned border guards to be on alert.

The hunt was centered in an area about 50 miles from the prison and roughly 30 miles from the border with Canada.

Screenshot via

This story is breaking and is being updated.

Prison Escape Clouds Daily Routine For New York Community

By Tina Susman, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

DANNEMORA, N.Y. — Richard Matt and David Sweat are everywhere.

They are at highway rest stops, where the killers’ faces peer out from “wanted” posters. They are at checkpoints dotting the winding, forested roads, where troopers stand guard with rifles ready.

They are in the loaded weapons that locals place beside their beds at night, and they are in the porch lights that shine until dawn, when daylight brings a measure of relief to people living near the prison that Matt and Sweat fled more than a week ago.

The pair remain out of sight, but everyone knows they are out there, and if police are right, they haven’t gone far. That’s no comfort to people living in and around Dannemora, where the hulking Clinton Correctional Facility seems to devour the quiet village of clapboard houses and small businesses.

“I wish it could just be over. I haven’t been able to sleep,” said Amy Daust, who lives down the block from the manhole through which the prisoners emerged after cutting their way out of their cells and tunneling out of the prison. They were discovered missing during a 5:30 a.m. bed check on June 6. Since then, it seems life has turned upside down in tiny Dannemora, whose population of 4,000 includes the nearly 3,000 prison inmates.

“You feel like the roles are reversed. It’s like we’re in prison now,” said Daust, who has a clear view of the correctional center and can hear the announcements blasted to prisoners through its speaker system.

People avoid going outside at night. They lock their doors and windows, a change of habit in a town where many residents used to think nothing of leaving keys in their cars. Since the escape, nobody has been able to drive through town without stopping at checkpoints and opening their car trunks for troopers to peer inside. Daust, her fiance and their three young boys keep the house lights on during the night.

It has always been a bit creepy, knowing the kinds of people living behind the walls at the maximum-security prison, said Daust, who grew up in the region. But with so many correctional officers living nearby, and with the prison looking so impenetrable, it seemed plenty safe.

On the morning of the escape, Daust woke up unaware that anything unusual had occurred at the fortress up the hill. She looked out a window and was startled to see someone looking back at her. It was an investigator, one of hundreds searching for Matt and Sweat.

On Saturday, searchers were out again, combing the thick woods, fields and swampy areas of rural northeastern New York.

Officials say a civilian prison worker named Joyce Mitchell provided some contraband to the men weeks before the escape. A criminal complaint says Mitchell, 51, brought them hacksaw blades, a screwdriver bit and chisels.

Mitchell pleaded not guilty Friday to a felony and a misdemeanor in connection with the escape and was jailed in lieu of $110,000 cash bail. Clinton County District Attorney Andrew Wylie says the investigation into Mitchell’s involvement continues, and he has not ruled out additional charges.

Officials have not explained how the prisoners managed to cut through thick brick walls and a steel pipe. They have said Matt and Sweat used power tools but have not said where they got those tools or how they were able to use them without the noise drawing attention.

Police said they had no reason to believe the men had fled to Canada, about 20 miles north, or to neighboring Vermont. The checkpoints are centered on a tight circle around Dannemora, and most of the intensive ground searches have occurred in the immediate vicinity.

Despite the manpower, the search dogs and a $50,000 reward for information leading to either man, there have been no confirmed sightings, leaving even people who do not live in Dannemora on edge.

In Plattsburgh, about 15 miles to the east, Dan Myatt said he had loaded his rifles, just in case, and he admitted to having felt a bit uneasy Friday night as he emerged from an evening kayak trip to find himself alone in near-darkness.

Myatt has tried not to let the knowledge that two killers are on the loose alter his routine. He still jogs by himself in the morning, but Myatt, who normally does not watch TV, has begun following the local news for search updates. He planned to take another paddling trip Saturday evening, and he hoped he would not find himself alone again.

Richard Matt, 48, had been serving 25 years to life for the 1997 killing and dismemberment of his boss.

David Sweat, 34, was serving life without parole for killing a sheriff’s deputy in 2002.

The pair have defied the odds in remaining free this long, according to prison escape data compiled by the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

Of 29 inmates who escaped from New York state prisons from 2002 to 2012, none were loose for more than three days before being recaptured.

(c)2015 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Screenshot: CNN/YouTube